A San Fernando Valley drug dealer was sentenced this week to 11 years in prison for killing a 20th Century Fox distribution executive who was having an on-again, off-again affair with the defendant’s estranged wife.
John Lenzie Creech, 45, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the May 2012 beating death of Gavin Smith, who was missing for 2 1/2 years before his remains were found in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest in the Antelope Valley.
Smith, a 57-year-old married father of three, was killed in a West Hills business park near Creech’s home where the victim was having a late-night tryst with Creech’s wife, prosecutors said.
After less than an hour of deliberations, the nine-woman, three-man jury on July 3 acquitted Creech of the original charge of first-degree murder, and also of second-degree murder, settling on the lesser count of voluntary manslaughter. Creech insisted the killing was an act of self-defense, but the jury appeared to believe he acted in the “heat of passion.”
“It was a very difficult case—with a lot of twists and turns,” Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace said outside court on the day the verdict was read.
“There was an affair and he found out about it,” Grace said of Creech, adding that the “infidelity” aspect of the case probably helped explain the jury’s decision.
In his closing argument, Grace told the jury that Smith “was executed in cold blood by this defendant, who hit him repeatedly in the face” after using a cell phone with GPS to track down his estranged wife, Chandrika Cade, and sneak up on the two in Smith’s Mercedes-Benz.
“You don’t accidentally beat someone to death,” the prosecutor said in his rebuttal argument.